People are nervous about upcoming changes in policies and laws as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office on January 20, 2017.  Immigrant communities, in particular, are concerned about how such changes may adversely impact them and their families. Whether you hold permanent residency (i.e., a green card) or you are undocumented, there are constitutional rights that protect you from improper searches and detention.  Knowing and understanding your rights is critically important in the days ahead, and it will empower you to live without fear under the new administration.

If you have an encounter with an immigration agent:

  1. You have the right to remain silent. The police, immigration agents or any other agents may not force you to speak and answer their questions when they stop you.

  2. You have the right to calmly leave the scene if you are not under arrest and the officer says that it is okay to leave.

  3. You have the right not to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home.  However, if the police suspect that you have a weapon on you, they may do a “pat down” of your clothes.  Likewise, if they suspect that there is evidence of a crime inside of your car, they may search your car without your consent.

  4. You have the right not to open your door when an immigration agent knocks on your door. The agent must have a warrant to enter your home.  If they have a warrant, you must let them in, however, you have the right to remain silent.

  5. You have the right to speak to a lawyer before you say or do anything.  If you are detained, you may ask for a list of attorneys and their phone numbers.

Equally important is understanding what you must NOT do if an immigration agent attempts to detain you. Specifically:

  1. Do not lie or give immigration agents false documents.  If an immigration agent asks to see your immigration papers, you must show it to them if you have it on you. Unless you are a United States Citizen, you should carry your immigration papers with you at all times (e.g., green card or work permit).  If you do not have your papers with you, remember that you have the right to remain silent.

  2. Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.

  3. Do not physically resist an arrest.

It is also prudent to protect your loved ones in the event you are detained.  For example, if you have children, create an emergency plan for their care in the event you are arrested.  You should also memorize the phone numbers for your family, friends and attorney to keep them updated on your well-being after an arrest and so that they may take necessary steps to help you.

For more resources about understanding your rights, visit the websites of the National Immigration Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the National Immigrant Justice Center.

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